The Fjällräven Ulvö 30 is a perfect day bag for commuters with its attractive design and handy compartments. But it's less successful as a hiking backpack due to the one-size fit around the chest and limited ventilation.
Seven useful pockets
Fit is not suitable for all body types
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As an ultra runner, I am used to wearing a small running vest to carry my fuel, water, and mandatory race kit. But my forthcoming 250k challenge across Tanzania will involve much more hiking, so I felt it was time to find a great hiking backpack.
I immediately fell in love with the Fjällräven Ulvö 30 because, unlike most bulky backpacks, which seem to have straps and elastic strings hanging off, it has an attractive minimalist design with space to hang trekking poles.
Marketed as an all-rounder, I decided to test it out on the trails as well as the train track. I used it for five-hour training hikes through fields and up hills, but I also tested it out on my weekly 90-minute commute on the train.
As someone who likes to organize, I was exceptionally impressed with the usefulness of the backpack, which allowed me to order my kit (phone, food, water, treats, cables, spare battery, head torch, poles, and spare clothes) into lots of different spaces.
But unlike my running vests, which come in different sizes and have different male and female versions, the unisex, one-size design of the Ulvö 30 did not fit my body type that well. This was a real shame because everything else about it was perfect.
Fjällräven Ulvö 30 review: price and warranty
The Fjällräven Ulvö 30 retails for $150/£150 and is available in two colors; Black and Mountain Blue. This bag has a 30-liter capacity, but there is a smaller 23-liter edition, the Fjällräven Ulvö 23, which is functionally and aesthetically similar but costs $125/£125.
There is a Limited Lifetime Warranty (so long as you have proof of purchase from an authorized retailer), but it doesn't cover accidental damage from stains, sun damage, or wear and tear to the zippers and fabric.
Fjällräven Ulvö 30 review: design
Despite its slim line design, this backpack is larger inside than it looks. The base extends downwards, and the 30-liter capacity is more than adequate for a day's worth of food, hiking gear, and spare clothing.
You access the bag's internal storage from the top, which makes it easy to load up, but it also means you need to unzip it entirely if you want to grab something from inside. The Bergshell waterproofing is highly effective, with water droplets rolling off the material as soon as they hit.
The Ulvö 30 is a very good-looking bag with a stylish look more suited to the city commuter than your average hiker. This is not surprising given that the Swedish company has a reputation for well-designed apparel, and the bag is marketed as a daypack for traveling and everyday use.
Fjällräven Ulvö 30 review: storage and organization
What I absolutely loved about this backpack was the number of pockets and meshes to stash away different items. The spacious main compartment is divided into two sections, plus a padded laptop pocket for a device up to 15 inches.
There is also a large zippered front top pocket plus an attachment loop for a bike lamp. Inside this top pocket are two more zippered sections ideal for storing smaller items like cables and chargers.
There are two meshed sections on either side for carrying bottles and a sneaky zippered side pocket just big enough to store a small cell phone or emergency sweets. Since my walking poles fold into three sections, there were plenty of places to keep them, including the side meshes.
Fjällräven Ulvö 30 review: fit and comfort
For everyday use, such as a commute on the train, the fit and comfort were more than adequate. Unfortunately, for longer hikes, the unisex fit did not seem to accommodate women very well.
The chest strap and hip belt, which can be detached, helped to hold the pack in place and take the strain off my back. But as a slight woman, I found a lot of spare strap length flapping about and no obvious place to tidy it away.
The back has a mesh to help with ventilation, but sweat is still inevitable since the bag sits directly on your back. My major gripe was that I needed to pull the chest straps quite tight due to my small size. This resulted in the main vertical straps curving inwards, digging into my chest right in the middle of my breasts.
Although it'd be fine to fit the bag loosely when jumping on and off the train and for short walks, for long hikes with a lot of weight in the back, I needed the straps tighter to take the strain. But this resulted in an uncomfortable fit around the chest, though by broader, flat-chested husband was more happy with the fit.
Fjällräven Ulvö 30 review: verdict
I loved the look and practicality of this backpack, which was brilliant as a commuter bag or for a picnic with the kids. However, the unisex fit only works for some body shapes, which is a real shame as I'd love to be able to use it for long hikes too.
Although you could use it on shorter walks, the top-loading design makes it slightly awkward to access essentials without stopping. The thoughtful design means plenty of places to store all your daily essentials and keep them organized.
Whether this is the right hiking backpack for you depends on the types of walks you prefer. This is a great option if you're after a mid-sized bag with an attractive design. But you might be better with one of these alternatives if you're after a more traditional hiking or commuting backpack.
Fjällräven Ulvö 23
If you're after a daily commuting backpack, there's the Fjällräven Ulvö 23, a 23-liter edition of thw Ulvö, which may be more practical for shorter walks or hikes of less than three hours. It has the same design; it's just slightly smaller and cheaper.
Helly Hansen Transistor
The Helly Hansen Transistor is more of a traditional hiking backpack, with greater hip support and straps with slightly more padding for extra comfort. This 30-liter bag also has mesh ventilation to keep things cool and trekking pole attachments.
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Lily Canter is a freelance money, health and lifestyle journalist with more than 20 years' experience. She writes about fitness for Runner's World and Trail Running magazines and focuses on personal finance for Yahoo! Finance UK, Metro, The Guardian, and the Mail on Sunday. In her spare time she is an ultra-runner, canicrosser and running coach. She also co-hosts the award-winning podcast Freelancing for Journalists.
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